A season lost: Governor's order eliminates spring season in Iowa high schools

Lights shine on BCLUW's empty football field in Conrad on Friday, April 17, 2020 as part of a #lightupIA initiative showing support for students that were told on Friday that school buildings would be closed for the rest of the 2019-20 academic school year by order of Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds. As a result, spring sports are canceled and summer sports are suspended until at least June 1. (Panorama photo from @BCLUWActivities on Twitter)
Jake Ryder
As the school closures extended and the sports schedule delays continued, perhaps an inevitable result came into view for spring sports athletes and coaches.
The news from Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds last Friday that schools would remain closed through the end of the academic year, and the resulting cancellation of spring sports, stung just the same.
“I anticipated it, the way trends were going,” Grundy Center activities director Dan Breyfogle said. “I wasn’t shocked, but I was disappointed for our kids, our coaches and our community.”
Spring seasons for golf, tennis, soccer, and track and field have all been canceled.
Summer sports has not been canceled, but is currently suspended with a decision on the start date for baseball and softball to come before June 1.
“While we are disappointed that student-athletes will not have the opportunity to compete this spring, we remain committed to our primary goal of keeping students, coaches, officials and communities safe,” IHSAA executive director Tom Keating said. “This cancellation comes out of an abundance of caution for the well-being of all. Conducting our spring season would involve moving groups of people in and out of various communities for competition. At this time we believe that is a risk we should not take.”
Breyfogle confirmed that the North Iowa Cedar League ADs met to discuss a potential schedule that would line up with a May 1 start to the spring season before the cancellation order came down last week. There will be similar discussions to prepare for whatever may come next for baseball and softball.
“I talked with the summer coaches, and they’re aware of the situation, there’s no real surprises at this point,” Breyfogle said. “Everyone’s aware the health and safety of our kids is the most important thing and we’ll just have to wait and see."
Among the numerous other spring sports options, track and field is the second most-popular sport for girls and boys in Iowa, regardless of season. In 2018-19, 12,012 boys from 350 schools and 9,908 girls from 348 schools went out for track and field.
The Dike-New Hartford boys track and field team had aspirations of repeating as team champions after winning the 2A crown last season. 2019 Drake Relays long jump champion Parker Kiewiet was set to lead the way in his senior season.
Kiewiet is set to join the University of Northern Iowa’s track and field team in the fall. But he wanted that last high school season nonetheless.
“I enjoyed track and field with my guys,” Kiewiet said in a phone interview. “I was just sad overall, so much fun going to meets, to state, Drake. It’s sad, but you just gotta keep working.
“We had the same goals as last year, get as many down to state as we could, hoping to win conference. We had some sophomores and freshmen no one had seen before and we were hoping that maybe those guys could step up in distance and hurdles and I definitely think we had it in us.”
Kiewiet said the Wolverines stayed sharp with weekly workout plans from head coach Will Reingardt, something he hopes to continue working on as he tries to stay in shape for what will hopefully be a truncated baseball season.
“He’s a really good coach and he knows what to do for us to get better,” Kiewiet said.
But should summer sports not happen...
“It’s been super fun with my guys for all four years and my teammates in the senior class,” Kiewiet said. “Training for my freshman year doesn’t feel that long ago.”
Breyfogle sees the biggest challenge as explaining to students about the perceived benefit of the measures taken at the state and federal level.
“Most adults get it, we understand there’s a bigger picture,” Breyfogle said. “But put yourself in the shoes of a 14, 15, 16, 17, 18-year old; there’s not a whole lot of rhyme or reason to this.”
There’s also the challenge of not letting this lost time affect future years of Spartan excellence in the classroom and on the athletic fields, a discussion Breyfogle broached with spring coaches in a teleconference after the cancellation announcement.
“You’ve got freshmen who have never had a chance to compete on your team and we have to make this seem like it wasn’t a wasted year for them, because they’re your contributors going forward,” Breyfogle said. “You have to let them know this won’t derail their entire career. You want to make sure you pay homage to the seniors for what they’ve done for you, you don’t want to diminish that, but you also have to prepare for the year after, and the year after that, and the year after that."
Keating told the Cedar Rapids Gazette the IHSAA stands to lose about $90,000 in revenue, not including lost revenue from a final day of state boys basketball at Wells Fargo Arena that was played with strict attendance restrictions.
Jean Berger, IGHSAU’s executive director, told the Gazette the Union estimates a loss of $175,000-$200,000, with most of that lost revenue coming from the lack of a state track and field meet, the most popular of the spring sports postseason tournaments.
“What we lose in money is nothing compared to what the kids lose in memories,” Keating said in the interview with the Gazette.



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